Whales of the Allegheny / The Crown and Anchor Pub / The Nurse Log
Whales of the Allegheny
The view exhausts me. Typical curtain
of drizzle in the floor-to-ceiling window,
typical plunge of the hill scrub down
to the Lincoln Highway. Over my shoulder
the chemical salesman sighs into ice, searching
his glass for the red-maned roan of youth.
He waits on it to show, hard galloping fence lines,
but even the mirrors here have called a truce.
What more should we expect, the rivers
content with hauls of spent bottles and broken
headboards? With their scarves of foam mingling
in the wind, what eighty-foot silhouettes could
they ever hope to bear, slipping past Point State
Park, trailing sparkling capes of exhalation
in the falling dusk or you, floating cloud-eyed
with them, on your back toward the eventual sea?
The Crown and Anchor Pub
We have come to the end
of the crawl, with stones
in our palms, with the glass
of green bottles shimmering
in our kneecaps.
We have come to the Crown
but no longer mention the anchor
which has sunk into memory,
pinning the grackles to hot sidewalks.
The usuals are here, brumating
winter frogs who close their eyes
on the darkened street where
someone is shouting drink up, drink up.
But we don’t go in. Instead, one
of us wraps his arms around an oak
and begins to weep. Which one I can’t
remember, only how easy it was to
mistake distant radio tower lights
for stars full of portent.
When we walked home, kicking
at streetlamps, laying claim
to the future, our shadows fell
into the empty creek. Hostas hid
clutches of butterfly eggs there.
Luminous brains were trembling
on the underside of every leaf.
The Nurse Log
Your empty mouth bared in awe and hunger
as sleep would have it. Your lips chafe around
a black egg. From your hollow the remnants of night
come padding out to wander your tongue, then the bazaar
of this forest air. Juniper, cedar needle, warm Heineken,
Marlboro, Paris by Yves Saint Laurent. Coalroot curtains
the clearing of your bedroom, where you shed dress after
dress until giving in to exhaustion. Pretty in pink, isn’t she?
Formica vanity. A bed of water. Interpretations of spring rain
sewn into a field that shivers with absence at your back. Absence
of the denim jacket. Absence of his blunted shoulder blade, of
his throat, the hollyhock, of any green and feathered touch. Slowly
you’ve been edging into wet earth to make from your fallen body
a new garden. Look. A hemlock grove is struggling out of you.
Tobias Peterson’s work has appeared in Superstition Review, AMP, Ghost City Review, Coldnoon, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in poetry from Texas State University and has taught writing in Texas, England, Spain, and most recently at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. He lives across the Columbia River from there, in Portland, OR. Visit him at http://tobiaspeterson.com/.